The reported beneficial effects of beer can ONLY be applied to moderate consumption by healthy adults. Heavy drinking, whether in binges or on a regular basis, can be harmful and is associated with many chronic health problems. Likewise underage drinking, even in moderation may have particular harmful effects. In 2001, speaking at the second Beer and Health Symposium, Dr Eric Skovenborg defined moderate drinking in the following terms. ‘To drink moderately is to drink within the limits set by your health, the society in which you live and your obligations towards your family and friends’. In the UK consumers are advised not to regularly consumer more than 2-3 units of alcohol a day for women and 3-4 units of alcohol a day for men, where 1 unit is equivalent to 10ml (8g) of alcohol.
Regular consumption of alcohol would be defined as drinking this amount most days or every day. It should also be noted that ‘saving up’ the daily intake guidelines, for a binge at the weekend for example, is not healthy at all. While these are useful guidelines there are also some situations where even moderate drinking means misuse. Examples of situations where it may not be appropriate to drink at all include: during pregnancy or when trying to conceive; before drinking or operating machinery; or when taking certain medication or suffering from certain conditions.
The medical profession is understandably reluctant to advocate moderate drinking to abstainers in order to gain the associated health benefits, because
of the fear that this might lead to over-indulgence or be interpreted as an excuse for some people to drink too much. There are also problems in transferring results from population studies to medical advice. What is true for the population may not be true for a particular individual who may have a family history or lifestyle which counters the general trend. For personal, individually-tailored advice, the best course of action is to consult a doctor.
The brewing sector is mindful of the dangers of alcohol misuse. To this end it has supported numerous educational programmes and campaigns to avoid misuse such as those to prevent drinking and driving and discourage drinking by people under the legal drinking age. More information can be found in a publication produced in 2007 by the Worldwide Brewing Alliance which details over 300 initiatives funded by brewers in Europe. It is available on the website of The Brewers of Europe www.brewersofeurope.org
Further information, advice and guidance on alcohol and the effects of immoderate consumption can be found on the following websites:
Drinkaware – http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/
NHS Change4life – http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/change-for-life.aspx